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LE MARS, Iowa | The cherry atop the "Ice Cream Capital of the World" may well be the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor & Museum, a 3-year-old visitors center devoted to the story and great tastes served up by Wells Enterprises, makers of Blue Bunny ice cream and frozen novelties.
The parlor/museum is located in an historic building on Central Avenue, a downtown magnet for the Plymouth County seat. The site, which opened in July 2011, replaced a smaller parlor Wells operated since 1999 at the intersection of highways 3 and 75.
The 1875 two-story brick structure isn't simply one of the oldest businesses in Le Mars, it's also among the oldest in Iowa. Built by George E. Pew, the site decades ago featured hardware and farm equipment before becoming an auto dealership.
The old-fashioned marble bar came from M&M Bakery & Cafe in O'Neill, Neb., and now welcomes thousands of visitors each month, all eager to have their sweet-tooth satisfied by a wealth of Blue Bunny Ice Cream flavors.
The counter reminds folks of decades past, when such counters were tasty mainstays on Main Streets all across the country.
Visitors are drawn to the site by the iconic sundae sculpture from the first Blue Bunny Parlor & Museum. Once inside, guests may meander through the Blue Bunny gift shop, or spend a few minutes learning how founder Harry C. Wells hatched his "cool" business idea with a horse, wagon and a milk route in 1913. One display case features a contract Wells signed for a milk route on Oct. 24, 1913.
Touch-screen panels enhance the visitor experience in each booth, allowing guests to learn more about the company and this community as they dig in to a sundae or sugar cone treat.
The parlor, measuring 12,000 square feet, also has a grand, open staircase that allows guests access to a second-floor party room, which holds up to 130 people and may be booked for special events hosting up to 130 people. The party room even has a full kitchen, perfect for the creation of special Blue Bunny ice cream treats.
Wells Dairy, the largest employer in Le Mars, boasts employment totals of more than 2,000. Le Mars is also the site of the annual Ice Cream Days celebration, a four-day gala that occurs in June.